Op-Eds

In-depth features and interviews, and photo essays   
  1. One morning about a year ago I spotted a headline that made my heart sink. It claimed eggs can give you a heart attack. It wasn’t that I was about to eat eggs for breakfast. Rather, it was because, as a medical journalist, I knew friends and family would soon be asking me what to make of this claim. And I would have a tough time answering. Advice about what to eat seems to change every week. Eggs are a classic example. They were once seen as whole­some packages of protein and vitamins, a…
  2. It’s 3am on a mid-February night, and Yardley Wong is trapped in a windowless ship’s cabin, unable to run from an enemy she can’t see, with crew members standing outside in the hall like prison guards.Staring at the walls for three days and nights, she and her family have tried to overcome their fears. Wong, 43, has spent the time frequently washing her hands with soap for 20 seconds and checking her temperature every hour. She has sprayed disinfectant on the family’s clothing and shoes, and…
  3. It is early evening and Phnom Penh’s open-air riverside bars are filled with well-heeled tourists, sharply-dressed business types and trendy proponents of the city’s newly minted middle class. The vista from their terraces is soothing: small freighters and fishing boats chugging gently upriver, or drifting silently downstream, and saffron-clad monks or young lovers strolling the banks of the Mekong. But this tranquil, prosperous atmosphere is deceiving. The United Nations’ sponsored experiment…
  4. Singapore: a determinedly modern city, whose old districts of two-tiered, mildewed shophouses have long since been gentrified or demolished to make way for shopping malls, expressways and oversized archi­tectural statements.Despite the city state’s strong Chinese heritage, it is not some­where you would expect to find an old-fashioned business such as Say Tian Hng, reputedly the last workshop in the region to make and repair wooden Chinese deity statues entirely by hand, using traditional…
  5. Hard though it may be to believe, there was once a time when no one in Hong Kong wore a mask in public except for a laugh. Unless you were unfortunate enough to find yourself in hospital, masks were for jokers. (Or the Japanese – along with onsen and bonsai, they were considered part of that country’s arcane customs.) Six weeks after the planes flew into the World Trade Centre, in September 2001, Central’s Pottinger Street was selling rubber masks of Osama bin Laden in time for Halloween…
  6. Imagine an alien creature floating in space. It doesn’t grow, communicate or move at all under its own steam. Without a home it is inert. We know very little about it, except that it will start reproducing when it enters the atmosphere of a planet that suits it. Is it living? Is it dangerous?This may not sound like a plausible being, but it pretty much describes viruses, which are little more than bits of genetic material able to replicate only when inside a host. Viruses may seem alien, but…
  7. In the summer of 1941 in New York, United China Relief (UCR) was founded, bringing together eight organisations that had been working towards the same ends: to raise the American public’s awareness of China’s resistance to Japan, and to collect funds to directly aid civilians.The images chosen to promote their work were a series of full-colour posters that appeared in newspapers, maga­zines and on billboards nationwide, images that would be seared into many people’s memories long after the war,…
  8. Desolate and beautiful, southern Mongolia’s Gobi Desert is a vast, treeless expanse, with few permanent settlements and even fewer paved roads. It was here, amid the crumbling outcrops of a fossil site known as Ukhaa Tolgod, that the poachers struck. The thieves would have worked methodically, digging out a half-metre-long block of soft red sandstone containing the whitish bones of a small dinosaur. They likely doused the skeleton with superglue, a crude substitute for the substances that…
  9. Known the world over as the most vertical urban centre on Earth, Hong Kong has a surprisingly wild countryside. Off the trail in the Sai Kung Country Park, my machete can barely hack through the vines and thorny underbrush.My wife, Esther, and I have been hiking for more than four hours along an overgrown riverbed on our way to climb the rocky west cliff of the famed Nam She Tsim, or Sharp Peak. Although only 468 metres high, its spiky silhouette dominates the park’s clear winter skyline.We…
  10. With the constant pace of change in global fashion, Chinese designers should not be limited to the “Made in China” label any more than be identified with China’s booming market of luxury consumption. This identity issue has become increasingly complex and multidimensional with global integration of fashion production, distribution and consumption, blurring past boundaries that separated Chinese from the non-Chinese, or, more commonly, from the Western.Over the past decade, a large number of…